Painting has always been the predominant medium for artists in Ethiopia. The development of the modern art movement in the country can be traced to the deeply rooted and dominant influence of church paintings. However, in every generation, artists have addressed socio-cultural, historic, economic and political issues and this is even more evident in the contemporary art scene.
Though most contemporary artists live and work in Addis, their work depicts what is happening all over Ethiopia; the turbulence caused by the dramatic development and transformation of the country. These changes are a source of inspiration for most of the artists here.
The 11 artists showing in the exhibition “Addis Contemporary” at the Circle Art Gallery, Nairobi describe their experience of a fast changing Addis during this critical period of its history. Through imaginative, conceptual and perceptual frameworks, the happenings in the city can be traced in their art:
Dawit Abebe’s concepts of In Between; Yosef Lule’s Past + Future; Tesfaye Bekele’s Cross Roads; Surafel Amare’s impressions arising from Banana Displays; Addis Gezahegn’s nostalgic fantasies of Old Town and Ephrem Solomon’s social commentary are critical reflections of Addis life.
Other artists’ work reflect more artistic preoccupations: Dawit Adnew’s obsession for patterns; Kerima Ahmed’s portrayal of contorted forms; Nebiat Abebe’s exploration of movement, light and balance; Dereje Demissie’s search for the link between identity and landscape and Tamrat Gezahegn’s meditation on indigenous knowledge and practice.
There is a large community of artists in Addis who persevere despite a still-limited art audience in the country. Exhibitions like ‘Addis Contemporary’ that address the essence of the contemporary art scene of Addis in depth, will create a new platform to expose Ethiopian artists who have not received proper attention either at home or abroad.
It is my belief that a lot will come out of ‘Addis Contemporary’!
Mifta Zeleke, Curator, June, 2015